Berbere is the flavor backbone of Ethiopian cooking, a cuisine built around heavily seasoned meats and stews served with a spongy flatbread.  It translates well to Southwestern cooking and we just picked up a huge bag from Pasqual’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Berbere works as dry rub for meats, a seasoning for stews, lentils and grains — even as a tableside condiment.  As with so many traditional seasoning blends, what goes into berbere varies from chef to chef but most versions begin with a base of ground chiles, ginger, fenugreek, cumin, cloves, coriander, cardamom, black pepper and salt.

The good news is that you don’t need to know squat about Ethiopian food (though it’s totally worth getting to know) to enjoy berbere. Here are some of my favorite uses:

• Blend a can of tomato paste with honey, salt and as much berbere as you can handle. It makes the best barbecue sauce.
• Sprinkle just a bit into the cheese sauce of your favorite mac and cheese. The smoky, spicy change will blow you away.
• Use it straight up as a dry rub for baby back ribs, steaks on the grill — even for oven-roasted chicken.
• Sauté minced onions and garlic with vegetable oil, stirring in berbere. Thin with more oil or with broth, buy rhinocort online.
• Blend with softened butter then spread over hot-off-the-grill corn on the cob. Or add minced garlic and use for garlic bread.
• Add a bit to the pot when browning meat for a beef stew. Or sprinkle just a pinch over a bowl of chicken soup.
• Mix just a bit into prepared pasta sauce, or mix it directly into meatballs.
• Add a bit to ground beef when browning it for tacos.